RCD receives Elton John grant

Money targeted at reaching Latino community is believed to be the first grant from the foundation to a Dallas organization

Ruben-Ramirez

STEPPING UP PREVENTION EFFORTS | Community Health Programs Manager Ruben Ramirez will target the Latino community for HIV prevention funded by the Elton John AIDS Foundation. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

The Elton John AIDS Foundation has given Resource Center Dallas a $38,000 grant to be used in targeting HIV prevention efforts within the gay Latino community.
Community Health Programs Manager Ruben Ramirez said this week that the money will allow RCD to expand its outreach and testing program to a population that has seen a dramatic rise in infections.

“The grant will be used to expand the activities we do now and give it more visibility, and then to provide a social support group on a monthly basis,” Ramirez said.

When the organization had city funding, the center provided more testing and social support to the Latino community than is currently available, Ramirez said. The increased programming begins next month.

The Elton John AIDS Foundation generally funds innovative programs that are already successful in reducing the spread of HIV. So rather than create something new, Ramirez said the center will use the money to enhance the outreach that’s already working.

In other target groups, RCD has followed up testing with support groups and social networking that has reinforced the safer-sex and prevention message.

Ramirez said that within the Latino community, he has heard quite a bit of misinformation.

“We’re still seeing the old myths from way back when about how people get HIV,” Ramirez said, adding that he had recently spoken to someone who thought he could get HIV from sipping from the same glass as someone who was positive.

“I was astounded,” he said.

Ramirez said that although information is readily available, language and immigration barriers stand in the way of some people learning about HIV.

“And some folks just bypass the sea of information of HIV information that is out there,” he added.

In addition, those with information don’t necessarily access testing. Ramirez said RCD will collaborate with area bars to provide testing as well as with other groups.

“We’ve worked very well with AIDS Interfaith Network in the past, and the gay LULAC group,” he said.

Ramirez said plans for implementing the grant, which appears to be the first the Elton John AIDS Foundation has made to a Dallas organization and is the largest the foundation has given to an agency in Texas, are still under way.

In 2010, EJAF gave OutYouth Austin $25,000 for its HIV prevention program that included testing that targets those ages 14 to 20.
Metropolitan Community Church of Abilene received $25,000 in 2008 for its drug intervention program for people who are HIV-positive.

EJAF was established in 1992 by the singer and is based in London. John’s husband, David Furnish, is chairman of the foundation.

EJAF supports programs that aim to reduce the incidence of HIV as well as end the discrimination and stigma associated with the disease. Other grants fund direct care for people living with HIV.

Ramirez said that RCD was particularly honored to receive this grant because it was competing with other organizations around the world to get the funds.
The EJAF has raised more than $225 million and funded projects in 55 countries since its founding.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 23, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Owner Kathy Jack issues statement saying she’s ‘truly sorry’ for closure of Jack’s Backyard

This morning we received a statement from Kathy Jack, owner of Jack’s Backyard, regarding the recent closure of the lesbian-oriented Oak Cliff bar and grill. The statement, sent over by Kris Martin of Kris Martin Public Relations & Marketing, was apparently issued in response to our post detailing creditor Marla Custard’s side of the story earlier this week. As we said in the post, we tried unsuccessfully to get in touch with Jack.

In Jack’s statement, which we’ve posted in its entirety after the jump, she says she is “truly sorry that this happened” but adds, “There is so much misinformation and so many rumors.” Jack goes on to say that she never paid herself a salary during the 2½ years the venue was open, and that she believes she could have repaid her debts if she had been given the opportunity.

Here’s the full statement:

—  Rich Lopez

Learning lessons from a tragedy

As a family mourns the loss of a daughter distraught over the outcome of a custody battle, one attorney explains the legal questions over who is — or isn’t — a parent

Michelle May O’Neil
Special Contributor

ParentThe death of Debie Hackett was a tragically shocking end to a family drama that has, to some extent, played out in the local Dallas media. Through her experience and even through her tragic death, Ms. Hackett has provided an opportunity to educate many who are in similar situations.

There seems to be quite a bit of misinformation about her family law case and the litigation that recently ended.

Many people live in families with children that they emotionally consider as “their children.” Knowledge of how the law applies to their relationship with the children in their lives gives power, so even in the midst of this tragedy there is something to be learned.

Texas law has a very specific definition of a “parent.” Texas Family Code defines a parent as:
• the mother (biological);
• a man presumed to be the father (because he was married to the mother when the child was born or at the time of conception);
• a man legally determined to be the father;
• a man who has been adjudicated to be the father by a court of competent jurisdiction;
• a man who has acknowledged his paternity under applicable law; or,
• an adoptive mother or father.

No matter how much love, caring or emotional bonding exists, if someone does not fall into one of these categories, then they are not a “parent” in the eyes of the Texas courts or Legislature.

While a person may feel emotionally connected to a child, the law provides no status for a person who “feels like a parent.” Even if a person is treated like a parent, or even considered a parent by the child, that person cannot be elevated to the legal status of a parent if she does not meet one of the statutory definitions.

So, you either are a “parent” under the law, entitled to the legal privileges and obligations of a parent, or you are not.

Parents have certain rights that are guaranteed under the U. S. Constitution as well as the laws of each state. The most fundamental of these rights is the right to make parenting decisions without questioning or interference from those outside the parenting relationship.

In other words, as long as the parent makes decisions that are not harmful to the child, the parent has the sanctity to make decisions for the child. Only when a decision can bring harm to a child does the law provide a method of reviewing parental decision-making.

The right to make parenting decisions includes the right to decide who the child can be around, spend the night with and visit.

This right is fundamental, like the freedom of speech or freedom of religion, and as a result is heavily protected by federal as well as state law, and highly regarded by most of our courts.

So, in Ms. Hackett’s situation, her former partner was the legal parent of the child and had the right to decide whether the child would associate with Ms. Hackett after their break-up. Only by proving that the former partner’s parenting decisions are harmful to the child in a court-at-law would Ms. Hackett have been able to have a court overrule the parent’s decision to exclude Ms. Hackett from the child’s life.

The jury trial that Ms. Hackett and her former partner went through in December involved the question of the parent’s fitness in her decision-making. The trial was not about whether the parent versus Ms. Hackett should have custody, what time the child should spend with either of them, who should decide what school the child attends, or even an allocation of child support.

The jury decided that the parent was a fit parent. That decision precluded Ms. Hackett from seeking any other orders regarding the child, such as the right to visitation over the parent’s objection.

Some believe that the law discriminated against Ms. Hackett because of the nature of their same-sex relationship. However, Ms. Hackett stood in the same position as a heterosexual person that does not meet the legal definition of a parent.

The law applies equally to any person that is not a parent seeking to intervene in the parenting relationship.

For example, consider a heterosexual married couple where one member of the couple has a child from a prior relationship. When that couple breaks up, the partner who is not a parent would be in the same situation as Ms. Hackett, left to the parental decision-making of the parent to continue the relationship with the child.

Barring proof that the parent is unfit — that her decisions as a parent are harmful to the child — the non-parent would have no right to interfere.

Grandparents often face this problem as well. Many grandparents assist in parenting their grandchildren yet cannot seek court ordered access to the grandchild absent proof of parental unfitness.

As a Dallas custody lawyer, I counsel many non-parents in situations like Ms. Hackett’s. The most important piece of advice I give them is to adopt their partner’s child while the relationship is good and everyone is on the same page.

Adoption grants them legal status as a parent and gives them the legal rights and constitutional protections that come with it.

This then allows — mandates — a relationship between the adoptive parent and the child after the romantic relationship with the other parent ends. Without adoption, the law provides no relief from the high hurdle of the parental presumption over which a nonparent must cross to even have the chance of gaining court-ordered conservatorship, possession with and/or access to the child over the legal parent’s objection.

The current state of Texas law draws no line regarding the gender of the parent or parents a child has. So a child, by adoption, can have two moms or two dads, provided a judge finds such adoption to be in the child’s best interest.

Michelle May O’Neil specializes in Texas family law cases and works specifically with gay parents regarding relationship and custody issues. She is the author of two books, All About Texas Law and Kids, published in 2010, and The Basics of Texas Divorce Law, published in 2011. Ms. O’Neil practices law with her firm O’Neil Attorneys in Dallas.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 7, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Feedback • 10.29.10

Forget “firing” Arkansas school board member Clint McCance or simply “reprimanding” him (“Joel Burns responds to Arkansas school board member who encouraged gays to kill themselves,” Instant Tea, posted Oct. 26). He should be arrested for inciting violence.

He doesn’t understand the uproar because he actually does not believe gay people are “real” people. That is how intense his hate is.

I understand about “free speech,” but if you can’t shout fire in a crowded theater or make terrorist threats on a plane, then you shouldn’t be able to use a high school campus as a platform to tell gay kids they don’t deserve to live.

I grew up in South Arkansas, so I am very familiar with how small towns in the South can serve as a breeding ground for hate and violence against gay people. I thank God I survived. I had no one to turn to, not even my own parents, which is often the case with gay adolescents.

People in Midland who genuinely care about their young people need to march in the streets over this and take advantage of this opportunity to learn and grow and dispel the myths that cause so much hatefulness to be directed toward young gay people. Children do not “turn gay” or “choose to be gay” or “become gay.” They are just gay, and terrified to be honest about it around people who have a lynch mob mentality. And sadly, it is the adults who claim to be Christians who actually pass these violent ideologies and misinformation on to their children.

These comments would never be acceptable if they were spoken about heterosexual students, so why are they accepted when they’re directed at our young gay students? Slap some handcuffs on this person immediately and find something to charge him with — even if he just has to sit in jail overnight — and send a loud and clear message to students on the brink of suicide that Midland School District unequivocally does not tolerate this hate speech and before another amazing student decides jumping off a bridge tonight would be better than going to class tomorrow.

Randy in Dallas

—  Kevin Thomas

Pow! Bam! Methadone Man, Buprenorphine Babe take on HIV/AIDS misinformation, stigma

The XVII International AIDS Conference recently wrapped up in Vienna, after six days of seminars, workshops, speeches and more, all chock full of the latest statistics, scientific advances and more. You can go to the official International AIDS Conference Vienna website here for transcripts of speeches and reports that were presented.

But there was more than just science available at the conference, and blogger Mark S. King was there to report on those other aspects on his blog, “My Fabulous Disease,” where you can read his “AIDS 2010 for Dummies: An Entertaining Review.”

When you’re checking out King’s take on the conference, be sure to click the link to watch a webisode of “Methadone Man and Buprenorphine Babe,” an HIV-fighting duo in the vein of Batman and Robin who are fighting misinformation and stigma (in the form of Mr. Thought Control and Evil Mr. Stigma and others) to spread the word that methadone and buprenorphone maintenance program can help stop the spread of HIV by helping injection drug users kick their habits.

Methadone Man and Buprenorphine Babe were created by The Open Society Institute’s International Harm Reduction Development Program to “help raise awareness about the glaring lack of access to these life-saving drugs.” And they might make you smile in the process.

Here’s Episode One:

—  admin